Prestigious awards for SA’s top scientists
The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) recognised two South African scientists with the prestigious Science-for-Society Gold Medals at its Annual Awards Ceremony held in Pretoria.
Prof Salim Abdool Karim, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Director of Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and Professor Helen Rees, Executive Director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute 9 (WRHI) both received the ASSAf Science-for-Society Gold Medals.
ASSAf annually awards up to two ASSAf Science-for-Society Gold Medals for outstanding achievement in scientific thinking to the benefit of society.
Abdool Karim was co-Principal Investigator of the CAPRISA 004 trial of tenofovir gel which provided proof of concept that antiretroviral drugs can prevent sexually transmitted HIV infection and herpes simplex virus type 2 in women. He is involved in the development, as patent co-inventor, of clade C HIV vaccines and led the first HIV vaccine trial in South Africa. His clinical research on TB-HIV treatment has impacted on and continues to shape the international guidelines on the clinical management of co-infected patients.
Rees is an ad hominem Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. She is an Honorary Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where she was also the Heath Clark Lecturer in the Department of Clinical Research. She is an alumni from Cambridge University and Harvard Business School. She is the chair of the World Health Organisation’s Strategic Group of Experts on Immunisation, is on the board of the international AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and is on advisory committees for microbicides for both the National Institute of Health and the Population Council. She is the protocol chair of the South African FACTS Consortium which is undertaking a Phase III trial for tenofovir gel.
At the same event, Dr Alexander Zawaira from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) received the Sydney Brenner Fellowship. The recipient of the first AU-TWAS Young Scientists’ National Award in South Africa, Professor Bernard Slippers from the University of Pretoria, was also recognised at the event.
Zawaira is a postdoctoral fellow in the Synthetic Biology ERA (Gene Expression and Biophysics Group) at the CSIR. Previously he worked as a research associate/postdoctoral scientist at the University of Cape Town’s Institute for Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine. He is a founder in the Discovery Maths Systems, a company that is developing experimental learning/discovery-orientated Maths Education Kits.
The Sydney Brenner Award was established when Dr Sydney Brenner donated a portion of his 2002 Nobel Prize to ASSAf to permit ASSAf (in partnership with the United States National Academy of Sciences and the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust) to offer a prestigious postdoctoral Fellowship for research to be undertaken in South Africa over two years by an outstanding young scientist. Brenner mentors the Fellows during and after tenure of the Fellowship.
This AU-TWAS award scheme aims to recognise and award talented young scientists in Africa.
The AU-TWAS Prize for Young Scientists in South Africa is managed by ASSAf, on behalf of its partners, the African Union Commission (AUC), the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
A slipper, an Associate Professor in Genetics at the University of Pretoria, is the first recipient of this award. He is a research leader of the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme and Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology at the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI).